West Michigan Health Check Spotlights Region’s Trends

West Michigan Health Check Spotlights Region’s Trends

Just as you might schedule a checkup with your doctor, the annual West Michigan Health Check is designed to assess the region’s health from a variety of vantage points.

Now in its seventh year, the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) report identifies significant health-related trends and issues facing Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan (KOMA) counties. Findings were recently presented to a capacity audience at GVSU’s Eberhard Center. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network joined Priority Health in providing average cost data for the report as well as grant funding for the project.

This year’s report showed positive momentum in some areas and opportunity for improvement in others. Here are the highlights:

  • An aging population will demand more resources. Although population growth has returned to pre-recession levels, the proportion of adults age 65 and older is greater than those in their prime working years. An aging population inevitably demands more health care resources, while drawing on fewer young people to pay for care. “This is going to represent a challenge for us over the next ten to 15 years,” said Dr. Kevin Callison, an economist and author of the report.
  • Rates of smoking, drinking down; weight and physical activity continue to be a struggle. While reduced rates of binge drinking and smoking were reported, two out of every three people in West Michigan are either overweight or obese. A rising number of residents report that they do not participate in any leisure-time physical activity.
  • More people insured and seeking primary care. The proportion of the population with no health insurance was significantly lower in 2014 than in 2013, as was the percentage of respondents who report having no personal health care provider.
  • West Michigan experiences higher health care costs by comparison. Grand Rapids has higher than average hospital expenses per admission, when compared to the U.S. average and comparable communities. However, actual hospital admissions are lower per capita, with an admission rate significantly less than the national average, although there are a higher volume of outpatient visits to hospitals.
Dr. Thomas Simmer

Dr. Thomas Simmer

Dr. Thomas Simmer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Sr. Vice President and Chief Medical Officer served as a panelist at the event. He said West Michigan health care costs per person are rising faster than other areas of the state. A shift in the region of physicians moving from private practice to hospital systems could help explain the high number of outpatient visits to hospitals, since care has been shifted from the “office” setting to “hospital outpatient,” where facility fees are billed, Simmer explained.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon said every dollar spent on health care has to come from somewhere, and reducing the need for costly care in the first place is a worthy goal. He said the state is looking at public health initiatives that produce positive outcomes in the health of residents.

“So much of what we spend is preventable,” Lyon said.

Read the full report here.

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Photo credit: Steven Depolo

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